So New York Giants' running back Tiki Barber plans to retire at the end of this year, calling it quits at the height of his career. Question: Does he make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Probably not, and that's not me talking. It's members of the Hall's National Board of Selectors who like Barber -- and, in some cases, like him a lot -- but who may not like him enough to send him to Canton when Barber is eligible in six years.
"He's Hall of Great," said the Washington Post's Len Shapiro, a Barber fan dating back to Tiki's career at the University of Virginia. "But I'm not sure he's Hall of Fame."
|Some view Tiki Barber's shot as similar to Hall snub Roger Craig. (Getty Images)|
In fact, if you took a vote now, I'm sure Barber doesn't get there. I know, a lot can happen between now and the end of this season, but, really, would it make any difference if Tiki ran for, say, 1,800 yards and the Giants won a Super Bowl?
"It could," said Shapiro, "but there still will be guys in that room who, sadly, will remember him for his fumbling early and who will say that Tiki never really kept the Giants on top when he played."
He's probably right.
So let's look at what we're dealing with here. Barber is the NFL's leading rusher right now and is on pace to finish with 1,706 yards. Let's say he gets there. That would put him at 10,493 yards for his career, good enough for 17th among the NFL's all-time rushers.
And let's say he continues at his present pace and finishes with 608 yards in receptions. That would put him at 15,819 yards from scrimmage, good enough for 10th place among NFL players. Throw in his 1,727 yards in returns, and you wind up with 17,546 in combined yards -- which would make him 10th there, too.
All are impressive numbers, but they're probably not enough to get Barber in the Hall of Fame. And here's why: At 17th in rushing, Barber would be behind Ricky Watters who, like Barber, played 10 years. Does Watters make the Hall? Nope. Will he be discussed? Sure, but listening to voters he almost certainly doesn't make it.
That doesn't mean he didn't have an outstanding career. He did. In fact, Watters was a critical component of the 1994 San Francisco 49ers, a club that went on to win that year's Super Bowl. But he didn't dominate the game, change it or define a style -- and that always comes up when players are discussed.
"Is he the game's best running back over the last five years?" one voter asked of Barber. "Is he one of the two best ? You just answered your question."
Ira Miller, who covered the San Francisco 49ers for decades, compared Barber not to Watters but to the 49ers' Roger Craig. Both were outstanding runners. Both were outstanding pass receivers. But only one has Super Bowl rings. That would be Craig, and he's not in the Hall of Fame.